Help deciding how many days at the parks

Week long lurker, first time posting. I must admit being on Touring Plans/ Lines has been feeding into the desire to do more and more during this upcoming trip and I keep changing my plans. So I decided to ask you instead. Our first trip and DH has a conference in Orlando so we are tagging along. It’s DD 3.5 yrs, DS 1.5 yrs, my sister and her DH and us. We fly down on the 30th of Nov but not doing parks that day. We leave 9th Dec morning after breakfast. So total of 8 park days of which 1.5 days will be spent at Universal/ island of adventure. The original plan was to do 2 days MK and 1 day of Epcot and 1 day of Sea World. Having 2 days off. Park days have 4 hours of break in our touring plans. Should we attempt a half day of AK too? Thanks and any suggestions appreciated!

A few quick thoughts:
Yes, definitely do AK - a full day there rather than going to Sea World.

Reconsider your plans to UOR - many of the attractions, especially the top tier ones, are geared towards an older audience. Don’t get me wrong - love, love, love UOR - but with two little ones there will be a lot you can’t do without having to child swap.

Check out There is a lot of good information there for first timers plus itineraries that match your length of stay.

1 Like

Thanks, much, for the suggestions! I will definitely look at the website.
My family is coming from Europe, and their main interest is definitely HP. We plan to go to Island of Adventure in the morning and do FJ as TP suggests and then in the evening (after break) do Gringotts at Universal (again suggested by TP). We will do Rider Swap and the rest of the time just take in hogsmeade and DA. Financially it does not make much sense and we will spend time with the kids at the kids areas and miss out on a lot of universal attractions, I know, but sometimes you have to do what you have to do for family.
Will definitely reconsider Sea world but I know my kids would love it and we would love going on the rides - we’ve been to Sea World before and loved it. But again I understand going to AK will be cheaper and more convenient. Aargh decisions decisions!!

Animal Kingdom is great. We took my kids to AK when they were 14 months and 4.5 and it was worth it. Consider going for 2/3 day instead of 1/2 and you will get a lot done. It is a pretty park and I find it the most relaxing of the 4 Dis parks.

If you get there and decide that you don’t need/want a whole day off from the parks you can always just add days to your Disney tickets while there. That way you can have a little flexibility. AK is a wonderful park and is worth the trip if you have the time. The Festival of the Lion King is my favorite! I have a hard time taking days off when I am in Orlando though.

Universal Studios does have some great kids areas so I think there will be enough to do with your little ones. We kind of had the same plan this summer and concentrated on Harry Potter and the kids areas. We have a DS6 and DS2. We didn’t really touch the majority of the parks but still had a lot of fun!

It sounds like a great trip!

Thanks, tons! Let me run it by the others. I think we are all little apprehensive how the kids would do with a hectic schedule and I am not sure we will fare better. But seems that AK can be pretty relaxing. Did you have a packed schedule and how did your 14 month old do, if you don’t mine sharing?

Thanks, LaurenB. I was just thinking about adding AK if we felt like it but that would mean no fastpass+ I am so glad to hear that you did HP and the kids areas and enjoyed it! I hear you when you say that you have a hard time taking a day off. We’ve never done a vacation with my children other than visiting family and don’t really know how they will be. They are not laid back kids so who knows?!

Nivi: Got your message. I certainly don’t mind sharing more information. We had a pretty packed schedule in the 10 days we went. .

We stayed on Disney property but still stayed at the parks all day the 1st 4 days. The weather wasn’t too hot and our baby had no problem sleeping in our decent stroller. You could could consider doing that for at least one of your days if the kids do well. Saves time. Of course you know what is best for your kids as far as breaks. Then we took 1 day off, partial park days and 1 full day the last day.

Have fun!

I would never exchange a day at SeaWorld for one at the AK. SeaWorld as a park overall blows the AK away IMHO. But, we are all different, so you will get opinions going both ways. And this is from someone staying at AKL CL- and we love the AK and AKL. You could always take away an MK day and add an AK day if you want more animals- or just go to AKL and check out the savannah if you can’t work it into your plans.

No park is ‘relaxing’- that is a misnomer. Relaxing is time at the resort pool, chilling out at the resort, or taking a nap. A park is a park- and it is going to take effort to tour it unless you go through the turnstiles and sit on a bench all day. I took my kids when they were very young- was the biggest mistake we ever made. My boys have been there several times, and they don’t remember anything from the first trip- and very little from the second. This is one area where we should have listened to the UG when they ask 'Who’s vacation is it, anyways?". That said, most people do not heed that advice- myself included :smile:

Realistically, you can only do so much with kids that are really young before things go downhill very, very quickly. We generally go for 8-10 days, and this year is just DW and me for the first time- my last several visits have been with the boys in tow. If I knew then what I know now- and based on the experiences we had- I would have pre-planned at least two days out of the parks on that first trip in addition to a minimum four hour break out of the parks on touring days. Even with 2 days out of the parks, that was still a push when my kids were really young- again, this is based upon my experiences. We wound up just ‘taking the hit’ on park admissions and taking days off so everyone got enough rest. The boys were more interested in swimming than they were in tromping around in a park all day, anyways.

Keep in mind that people on these boards (myself included), and other boards dedicated to WDW trip planning, lean towards over planning- that’s why most of us are on the boards in the first place- to maximize a Disney vacation. I learned from my mistakes after our first trip, and still took them a bit too young for their second trip (at 4 and 5), but the second trip included a whole lot of down time and swimming in the pre-planning phase. By their 3rd trip, at 8 and 7, they had the stamina to tour a park for at least 1/2 day before wanting a break.

There is maximizing a WDW vacation from a touring perspective on the one hand- and then there is optimizing a vacation so everyone stays rested and happy on the other hand- and the two do not necessarily go hand-in-hand. Ultimately, you will know what is best for you and your family- and how much rest the young ones will need. Good luck and have fun!

I will agree that being in the parks is not ever really going to be “relaxing,” and I found AK to be absolutely exhausting (I was there when it was hot, though).

Personally, when we’ve gone with 4-then-5 year old, if you have long enough park hours (usually MK does), we go RD to lunch time, then go back to the room and nap, maybe swim, too. Go back to the park around dinner time for a few more hours. We aimed for 2 1/2 days at MK, that is the most suited for younger kids. I personally really like Epcot, but there is very little there for young children to do, and it’s a TON of walking. I would cut Epcot back to a day. HS has a cool playground for kids, but I’m not sure if it’s worth a use of a ticket if you’re not hopping, though maybe it’s reasonable to go to HS in the morning and then spent the rest of the day resting or by the pool.

IMO, the biggest risk with your other park plans is not having a nap/rest built into the day. My 5 yo still can’t go all day without some quiet time at a minimum, if not an actual nap when he’s been walking and charging hard at rides.

Thanks, marentette7, for sharing your experience! Seems like a pretty intense touring you did there! Kudos doing it with little kids!

Happy_2_B - thanks you so much for your informative message! Sea World and AK are the only Orlando parks I have been to and was way more impressed with Sea World and so it naturally crept into our “things to do” this trip. We do have a couple of ADRs in AKL and hope we will see some animals there. With our actual park time not being too long each day (I will break in down below), I don’t think we can accomplish what we want in MK in 1 day and I think we will need the extra day there. And I am not going to fool myself with thinking that this trip will be relaxing. With December weather being as varied as I understand, not sure if pool will be the right place to chill. But we plan to take breaks. And at no point are we saying that “we are doing this for the kids.” It’s a cool way to meet our family coming from Europe and part of the cost will be offset by DH’s work. Our kids won’t remember but I am sure we will have stories to share with them and will take tons of photos for them to see. Maybe when a teenager, we will tease our daughter about her current princess obsessions!!!
Do I think I will get my money’s worth? Absolutely not. I am a planner and that’s why I am here. Our pediatrician joked that with 4 adults and 2 kids, we will be just slightly outnumbered!! Do I think they won’t have a few meltdowns? Of course not! And I am trying to make plans with the possibility that all plans may be shelved once we are there. But I am keeping my fingers crossed. Yes, I agree when you say:

There’s a real value involved in this trip and it has an intrinsic value too and I hope the latter will make it worth it - or not.

Thanks, manasteesmom for the cool pointers. It sounds like I consulted with you before I made my plans!

So this is the plan so far and I would love any inputs anyone can have for me:

We are staying at AoA (wanted the suite at an affordable rate). Renting a crib and a stroller and will be taking 1 stroller with us. We are renting a car.

Nov 30: reach around 3 pm and relax around the resort

Dec 1: Magic Kingdom: Have pre-RD ADR at BOG and then in park till 11:30 am. 4 hour break and we come back at 3:30 pm for 2 hours or so. (MK closes at 7 pm)

Dec 2: Universal Day 1 (I think we are starting off at IoA). We would like to come back to the resort in the afternoon but need to do more research if this is possible (again, any insight will be very welcome)

Dec 3: off day. Go to T-Rex for lunch

Dec 4: Sea World. From opening to around 3 pm (unless kids are too exhausted and so some of us will leave sooner). This is the only day we don’t have nap built in.

Dec 5: short day at Universal. We have lunch there and then leave.

Dec 6: Magic Kingdom day 2. Plan same as above

Dec 7: Off day

Dec 8: Epcot. We will try to get some FPPs and then try finding some princesses. We have a 4 person breakfast reservation at Akershus (that’s what we could manage) - so will have to figure that out. 4 hour break in the afternoon again.

Dec 9: Leave after breakfast at Ohana.

I was just wondering if we could add AK somewhere or let me be or alter the plans in any other way. And again, will be grateful for any advice!!

Once you are at Universal, stay at Universal. Just do what you can- then be done. IMHO you don’t want to go back and forth in the traffic congestion in that area- it will take a LOT of commuting time. You have a day off planned between your two fuller days, so as long as you leave the MK on that first day relatively early you should be all right to do Universal a bit later that next day.

I think it looks good overall. From my experience, keep an eye on the kids. If they are doing OK then keep with the plan. If they start fading and getting ‘whiney’ other than the occasional ‘normal whine’ then you may need to re-evaluate. If you add AK, do it on day 7 if the kids are doing OK. Just plan like a half day and take the rest of that day off since EP is a lot of walking on the day following. You have a lot of rest built in, so it won’t come down to the adults needing a break. You will know whether or not adding AK is a good idea or not when you get to that point in the trip and get an idea of how the kids are doing.

Thanks tons! Ok will do as much at Universal and will call it a day. Will definitely reevaluate plan in the kids are not holding up well or protesting too much. Do you think if we are having a shorter day at Universal on the 2nd, we can bring up Sea World to the 3rd and keep 4th free? Or let things remain the way they are.

Our original plan was to do Mickey’s Christmas Party on the 6th, but we are not very interested in the characters and the evening lights may be too much stimulation for the kids. Plus it would be too late for them.

There are several options, and it will always come down to how your kids are doing. You have travel to get there, then the stimulation of the parks for a couple of days on top of that. I would leave the break personally. That said, if you are buying same day admission to SW and they are doing well- you can always change it up. As I mentioned, my wife and I are going as a couple without the kids this year. We are offsite 2 nights so we can do SW, then at AKL CL for 9 nights. Over 11 nights, we have 8 park days built in (on and off site) and 2 rest days. All of our park days, except for 3, are 4-5 hours in the parks maximum. Less is always more- and we make sure to put in ‘vacation time’ in addition to doing some park touring- which people do on their vacation days, but it is not vacation-like. WDW isn’t going anywhere, there will always be more to see when you go back.

IMHO, do NOT do MVMCP. We did that when the boys were very young. I think they made it until somewhere between 7 and 8 PM (we got in at 4 PM) before a total meltdown occurred.

Yup, that’s what we thought about MVMCP - too much stimulation, too late in the evening and my kids definitely do better during the day and 7 pm is pushing it on a normal day.

That sounds like a great plan! We do not plan to go again till the kids are a little older and can enjoy more. i am just slowly learning how involved planning a WDW trip can be and hopefully next time I can be better organized!

I’ve been to WDW with DSs when they were ages 0.5/2.5, 1.5/3.5, 2.5/4.5 and 4/6.
The most important think I can say is that less is more with young kids. A packed day for my crowd involves 6 or 8 attractions, a snack, and back to the hotel for a swim and a break, with a possible return (or usually not) later in the day. They get over-stimulated so easily, but it’s hard to resist the urge to ride “just one more thing” before heading out. Given the time of year, it will be cooler so you may be able to do a leisurely lunch instead of a mid-day break, then a couple afternoon attractions before calling it a day.
(As an aside, I’m partial to AK, but at those ages we made it a short day: Kilimanjaro Safari, Meet and greet at outpost, a show (FOLK or Nemo), play at the Dinoland playground, brunch at Tusker House, and maybe a walk in one of the treks (Pagani or Maharaj).)

Seems like you have this figured out! I think for our non WDW parks, lunch and an hour or so after and then calling it a day will be the way to go. Our first day is supposed to be MK where we have a break scheduled and the second is a Universal day without a mid-day break but a shorter day. These may give us an idea what works better for the kids and we may tweak our plans accordingly.
I agree that AK will be a good day and I will have that at the back of my mind as we go ahead!
Thanks for the advice!

One other unexpected thing: My younger kid (now DS4) absolutely LOVES meeting characters. He doesn’t even love rides, except maybe the Carousel and Peter Pan… but he’d wait hours for a moment with Buzz, Chip and Dale, etc. The way we’ve managed this is to look at what (less-popular) characters are coming out when, then be there waiting 5 minutes ahead of time so we have a 5-10 minute wait. We’ve done this for Buzz in TL, Chip and Dale in Frontierland, Minnie/Daisy and Goofy/Donald in Fantasyland, and all the characters (Phineas and Ferb, Mike and Sully, Lightening and Mater) in Hollywood Studios.
(For example, our typical MK TP: Winnie, Meet Ariel, UTS, Dumbo, Carousel, FPP EtWB, IASW, FPP PP, Meet Daisy/Minnie/Donald/Goofy, Lunch, FPP TS, get 4th FPP Buzz, Peoplemover, Buzz, maybe 5th FPP for Mickey or Tinkerbell meet and greet, then head out. Second day we’d hit Tom Sawyer, Jungle Cruise, Country Bears, any other Meets/Greets.)

Oh that’s adorable. My daughter loves her princesses and Stitch and so I do have meeting characters on the agenda. My son I think will still be too young but I am hoping he won’t mind too much. Plus with 4 adults, we may split up so he does not have to wait in line. Love your TP!!

1 Like